From the Chicago Tribune

IN THREE separate announcements in recent weeks, three scientific teams at different pharmaceutical companies have given a weary, frightened world what it needs: a verifiable path to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, end the suffering and start the process of returning life to the normal rhythms of “before.”

Imagine again going to work and school, to restaurants and concerts without significant risk of infection. Imagine being able to travel. Imagine hugging family members and friends. We are likely to get there in 2021 because a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine appears on pace for emergency regulatory approval and fast rollout. This gift of science will be ready — if we accept it.

Wait, if we accept it?

The big question about a COVID-19 vaccine has shifted from efficacy to whether enough Americans will agree to receive it. Skepticism of inoculations is frustratingly widespread, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they work.

Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the Chicago-based American Medical Association, tells us she trusts the career scientists in charge of the regulatory process to approve a safe COVID-19 drug. Yet she worries: “I think our biggest concern is that we have a great vaccine and people don’t take it.”

A Pew Research Center survey in September of about 10,000 adults found that just 21% of U.S. adults would definitely get a COVID-19 vaccine, and 24% said they definitely would not. The rest were somewhere in the middle, leaning for or against. This is troubling news. If the vaccine becomes an optional response to the pandemic, the virus will continue to spread and cause harm to families and the economy. The country can’t get back to work fully until the outbreak is contained, and the vaccine is the way to get there.

We now have some confirmed details and early results from clinical trials of three different vaccines. Those results are promising. Versions from two U.S. drugmakers Pfizer (with German partner BioNTech) and Moderna are about 95% effective, the companies report. Both vaccines rely on revolutionary technology that uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, to create protection at the molecular level by injecting a piece of genetic code that primes the body’s defenses.

A third vaccine, developed by Europe’s AstraZeneca and Oxford University, relies on a more traditional method of using a modified inactive cold virus to trigger an immune response. AstraZeneca’s vaccine would be less expensive and easier to distribute than the other two because it doesn’t have to be kept in a deep freeze.

Need reassurance that vaccines work? Diseases like polio and smallpox were eradicated in the United States by vaccines. Measles disappeared 20 years ago, but it’s made a small comeback — because some parents stopped vaccinating their children.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading authority on infectious diseases, tells USA Today that once the vaccine gets FDA approval, he’ll take it and recommend that his family does too. He says COVID-19 can be defeated, and life can begin to return to normal. But only when the overwhelming majority of people are protected by the vaccine and herd immunity kicks in.

“It’s kind of dependent upon us,” Fauci says.

The vaccine is coming. Get ready to accept it.

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